Original email Message
Just a line to say it was good to meet up today and thank you for the guided tour of the school. It was good to get a feel of what the place is like. It was also striking to me as an outsider how pupils personally went out of their way to say hello to you - you're clearly a popular teacher.
As we said at the meeting, we're hoping that as individuals you will identify a group to work with and try to make use of the draft framework to plan and teach some lessons. At the next meeting on Monday 10th Oct we'll have a more focused discussion of that. In the meantime, if you have any queries, or just want to mull things over, please get in touch.
Thank you for your note and the article that you gave me. Just a comment about being a 'popular teacher'. It's a difficult thing to be considered as such. I'm also a failing teacher according to my GCSE results, my own personal knowledge as to where my teaching is right now, and how other teachers consider me (I'm considered 'too nice'). This is not me having a self-centred moan, hoping that you and others will defend me, which is what often happens. It is merely my way of thinking through what teaching is, what teaching food technology is and what it is that I want to achieve and how that works within and against the assessment framework that I work within. I'm becoming more and more suspicious that a good teacher is one that understands the assessment criteria for success in terms of the school and the pupil and works only to achieve that. By this I mean, the school needs to achieve and ever increasing A to C pass % and the pupil's only real need is to get those 5 A's to C's in order to progress to the desired next level. Actual learning is a side issue. The kid's future is at stake here, and the school's. This makes for experimentation in a difficult environment.
The reason that I'm discussing this is that with this project and the goals of the Learning Group, which is to take on the aims of RSC's Opening Minds program: I am setting up a dichotomy in my aims that are going to be difficult to manage. While I am going to be opening up and trying to achieve a different type of teaching and learning with my year 7's and Nesta, I'm also going to be building a more and more structured 'fill in the blanks' type of teaching to get my GCSE group their targeted grades. I have to achieve with this group and I have to do it in the way I'm told to, or things will become more difficult. And I'm doing it. I don't think my pupils are learning anything and I don't actually know if I will achieve those elusive marks.
The flip side and everdayness is this: the kids love to cook with me and I do think they are learning skills. I haven't got a classroom management problem because of that. The parents rate Food technology quite high and I know it's because their kids enjoy it and they think that learning how to cook is important to know. It's not really important to them to know how to develop a cook chill product that will be suitable sell in a supermarket.
In reference to the article that you gave me about what Design Technology is, or how it should be. What it didn't discuss was the notion of perceived success by the pupil and their parents. I started out allowing for experimentation and going with the pupil's ideas. Then I became more aware of how much money and time the parents were spending to get the pupils sorted for practicals. They and their children are not impressed when an experiment goes wrong or is just basically inedible. They don't understand the design process and are not interested. They want jr. to be able to cook for themselves when they leave home. Which, quite frankly, I think is reasonable.
If a kid grasps the design process and develops interesting ideas, it's just a luxurious bonus.
I am inherently a positive person and I like to learn new things, which is why I applied to join this research project. I don't like whingeing at meetings, which is why I'm getting it all out of my system now. I felt that you need to know some of the difficulties as I see it. But I'm sure you know these things already, which is why you are part of the project too. We've got to try to change things, even if we're pretty convinced it wont work. Life changes gradually, doesn't it?
I look forward to the next meeting and hopefully will have a direction planned for my two groups.